Arlington County police are investigating the death of a man near the county office complex at Sequoia Plaza.
A family member called 911 around 4 p.m., reporting that he was attempting to kill himself, according to initial reports. He was found dead by arriving police and firefighters, in an outdoor area near the Arlington Dept. of Human Services offices and a county-run mental health facility.
“At approximately 4:04 p.m., police were dispatched to the 2100 block of Washington Boulevard,” ACPD spokeswoman Ashley Savage said. “Upon arrival, an adult male was located deceased. ACPD is conducting a death investigation and based on the preliminary investigation, the death does not appear suspicious and there is no apparent ongoing threat to the public. The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner will determine cause and manner of death.”
A ramp between Washington Blvd and Route 50 was closed during part of the investigation.
LOCATION: Washington Blvd. (EB – ramp)/Arlington Blvd. (Rte. 50)
INCIDENT: Police Department Activity
IMPACT: The ramp from eastbound Washington Blvd. to Arlington Blvd. has been closed. Seek an alternate route. pic.twitter.com/1HqE6KTZxD
— Arlington Alert (@ArlingtonAlert) June 8, 2023
If you or someone you know is in immediate danger of self-harm, call 911. You can also call the 24/7 National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988, Arlington Dept. of Human Services’ emergency services line at 703-228-5160, or CrisisLink at 703-527-4077.
Local and state officials gathered today to celebrate the grand opening of a place where people can go if they are experiencing a behavioral health crisis.
The newly renovated Crisis Intervention Center (CIC) provides behavioral healthcare services in a community-based setting to individuals experiencing a psychiatric crisis. The location at 2120 Washington Blvd is open 24/7, 365 days per year, to people of all ages.
With the center, Arlington County aims to divert people in crisis from the emergency room and away from interactions with law enforcement — an imperfect system that was straining Arlington County Police Department, the Sheriff’s Office and local hospitals.
It comes as, in Arlington, nearly 10% of adult residents are reporting frequent mental distress, compared to 13% in all of Virginia, according to Arlington County Board Chair Christian Dorsey. In the wake of the pandemic, Northern Virginia saw a four-fold increase of adults reporting the onset of anxiety and depression symptoms, as well as one in 10 youth in the region contemplating suicide last year.
“It was critical for us to figure out, to pivot as soon as we could possibly pivot, to figure out alternatives to psychiatric hospitalizations,” Arlington County Dept. of Human Services Deputy Director Deborah Warren said during the ceremony today.
“People in a behavioral health crisis were being brought to the ER where, once they were assessed by a certified [clinician] and got a temporary detention order, they would languish for sometimes a week, or 10 days at a time — not getting care — handcuffed to a gurney and guarded by police or sheriff,” she continued.
Imagine, she continued, being paranoid, hearing voices or being significantly depressed and going to the hospital with its bright lights and cacophony of noises.
“It’s not trauma-informed,” she said. “Maybe all they need is to talk to somebody. Maybe they just need to be in a calming space and de-escalate, instead of a very stressful environment in the hospital.”
The grand opening of the CIC celebrated new ways the county Dept. of Human Services has been authorized to help people.
When Arlington firefighters respond to drug overdoses, they could soon start bringing along enough doses of an opioid-reversal drug to leave some behind.
This is part of a statewide effort “to prevent fatal overdoses and increase community access” to the nasal spray Narcan, one form of the reversal drug called naloxone.
On Saturday, the Arlington County Board is set to approve a memorandum of understanding with the Virginia Dept. of Health to get more state-provided Narcan into the hands of the public.
Through the Narcan “Leave Behind” Program, VDH has authorized EMS personnel, firefighters, law enforcement officers, school nurses and others to give Narcan doses to overdose witnesses, as well as to the family and friends of people who use drugs.
The infusion of Narcan is part of national, state and local a focus on reducing harm to drug users. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently approved Narcan for over-the-counter use.
Some advocates worried this would not do enough to bring the price of Narcan down. Others criticized the FDA for prioritizing the more costly nasal spray over the less-expensive generic version that is injected and said government-led, pharmacy-based distribution efforts do not reach the people who need it.
That is where the distribution of Narcan at the scene of an overdose could be effective, coupled with other harm reduction efforts led by Arlington’s Addiction Recovery Initiative, including fentanyl test strip and medicine deactivation bag distribution.
Higher-ups in the Arlington County Dept. of Human Services previously connected these efforts to a drop in fatal overdoses since 2021.
There are also new opportunities to learn how to administer the overdose reversal drug, which operates similar to a nasal spray.
Community members can get trained in using naloxone on June 7 at noon and 7 p.m. on Zoom. People can register by emailing [email protected] and can request naloxone, Fentanyl test strips and medical deactivation bags online.
In-person training and Narcan distribution is available later this month on May 17 and June 21 from 3-6 p.m. at DHS headquarters (2120 Washington Blvd, Room 112). No registration is required for in-person training.
As of last Wednesday, Arlington County police had investigated 55 incidents involving opioids this year, per county data. Since Jan. 1, 2023, there have been 20 opioid overdoses, of which six were fatal, according to ACPD.
While the overall fatality rate is dropping, Arlington is seeing elevated opioid use among youth, who gravitate toward counterfeit pressed pills that are increasingly laced with fentanyl.
There was a fatal overdose at Wakefield High School in January followed by a near-fatal teen overdose in a Ballston parking garage in March. The quick application of Narcan by first responders helped to save those who overdosed in the parking garage.
Those incidents revealed cracks in treatment options for youth in Arlington that are beginning to be remedied.
Some treatment options, like a new rehab facility, will take a while to open. In the meantime, Arlington Public Schools and the county have put money toward more education, substance abuse counselors, after-school programming.
After the FDA approved Narcan for over-the-counter use, APS announced it would be advancing plans to allow students to carry the nasal spray in schools, with parent permission and training, as early as May 26, WTOP reported.
Narcan is also stocked in emergency boxes throughout middle and high schools.
Arlington County says it provided assistance to 1,070 people who were experiencing homelessness or at risk of losing housing last year.
This number is five times higher than the number of people found living outside or in a shelter one night in January 2022. One night last winter, as part of the “point-in-time” count, 182 people did not have permanent, stable housing, according to a new report on homelessness in Arlington.
The recently released report says the larger figure more accurately captures the portion of the population experiencing homelessness in Arlington.
In a statement, Arlington County Dept. of Human Services Director Anita Friedman said that, without Covid-era eviction prevention efforts, the number of people who received services would have been higher.
“The total number of individuals served in FY 2022 was almost identical to pre-pandemic levels,” Friedman said. “Without strong eviction prevention efforts, we would have seen many more households upended and in crisis.”
Some $20 million in local, state and federal funding helped more than 3,400 households stave off eviction, according to the county.
The report comes as Arlington County embarks on a goal to bringing homelessness down to what it calls “functional zero” for several specific demographics. That means homelessness is “rare and brief” for a given population, such as young adults, families and survivors of domestic violence.
“For those households that do experience homelessness, it is traumatic, and we remain committed to working alongside them as they return to housing stability,” Friedman said. “We will also continue to address critical gaps, including in the areas of racial equity, immigrant and refugee households, and the aging population.”
Arlington County addresses homelessness through a network of programs and services it calls the Continuum of Care, or CoC. The report says that DHS staff and nonprofit program leaders have spent the last 10 years improving how the CoC prevents homelessness and finds permanent housing for people.
For instance, through the CoC, county and community partners work together to connect people to stable housing, jobs, childcare and emergency financial assistance, and provide behavioral health services to people living on the streets — a service that helped 65 people last year.
What homelessness looks like in Arlington
Of the 1,070 who received services through the CoC, there were:
- 744 single adults
- 105 families
- 36 veterans
- 74 young people aged 18-24
- 192 people in “chronic homelessness,” or individuals with a documented disability who have experienced at least 12 months of homelessness in one stretch or at least four times in less than three years
Excluding people in Arlington’s shelter for people escaping domestic violence, run by the nonprofit Doorways, 305 people were served in Arlington shelters. This includes 13 veterans and 25 chronically homeless individuals. The average length of stay was three months.
Meanwhile, the county report says demand for safe housing among domestic violence survivors — including individuals and families — is increasing.
While some 165 people received shelter at Doorways, the number of people who called its hotline was much higher: advocates counseled people on domestic and sexual violence during a total of 1,039 calls, per the report. Most of the time, people leaving these situations are women.
“Domestic violence is one of the leading causes of homelessness for families, and the leading cause of homelessness for women,” the report says.
Women are also more likely to be at the head of a family experiencing homelessness, per the report. Of the families counted one night in January, women were the adult in the family 95% of the time.
Meanwhile, 78% of homeless individuals were men and 1% identified as transgender.
Seven years after ending its substance use treatment options for youth, a local facility is poised to resume providing some outpatient services.
National Capital Treatment & Recovery CEO Debby Taylor tells ARLnow that Arlington County approached the center about providing therapeutic services to youth in the county after 14-year-old Sergio Flores fatally overdosed at Wakefield High School. The center has since obtained licensure to provide intensive outpatient and outpatient services and could be ready to debut its programming this spring.
“We had always hoped to get back in adolescent treatment, but we felt that we needed to do just the outpatient services at this point,” she said.
Since Flores died in late January, the county and Arlington Public Schools have mounted a “full court press” to address this issue, Dept. of Human Services Deputy Director Deborah Warren told the Arlington County Board during a joint work session with Arlington Public Schools this past Friday.
“The tragic loss of the 14-year-old has knitted the county and APS in a way we weren’t before,” Warren said. “I’m really impressed with the rapid response and the alignment on the urgency of the problem. We are developing all kinds of innovative ideas for how to help children and adolescents to address the emotional mental health crisis.”
In addition to the forthcoming contract with National Capital Treatment & Recovery, the county is looking to put DHS clinicians in high schools and work with neighboring jurisdictions to open a medicated withdrawal and treatment facility for adolescents. Arlington Addiction Recovery Initiative has ramped up training in the opioid reversal drug naloxone and the distribution of Narcan and fentanyl test strips.
“All staff members will be trained in the use of naloxone by the end of April,” APS Executive Director of Student Services Darrell Sampson told the County Boar. “Naloxone is available on all floors in secondary schools and we are exploring additional mental health education for school staff and high school students.”
Warren said fatalities from overdoses have reduced 40% through AARI’s training and distribution efforts.
“This is literally saving lives,” she said.
The number of fatal overdoses peaked in 2021 and has since decreased dramatically, Suzanne Somerville, the county’s bureau director of residential and specialized clinical services, tells ARLnow.
“AARI believes that it is related to the distribution and accessibility of harm reduction services,” she said. “The county has made a strong push to get Naloxone and Fentanyl Test Strips to anyone who is interested. We tracked the distribution of harm reduction tools and number of overdoses and extrapolate that there is a correlation between the two.”
That said, AARI has noticed “a significant increase in younger people overdosing” related to pressed pills, she noted. There have been seven juvenile overdoses, of which one was fatal, seven juvenile Narcan uses and 17 total opioid incidents involving minors.
That is why DHS is focused on filling the gaps in substance use treatment for youth, beginning with National Capital Treatment & Recovery, with which Warren said her department is “on the cusp” of a contract.
“We have significant gaps in our system of care for substance use disorders in kids,” Warren said. “We have really developed these services for adults in the last five to six years, in response to the opioid crisis. We are working hard to develop contracts with vendors to fill in these gaps.”
Taylor anticipates opening in about a month, after finalizing the paperwork and hiring clinicians, preferably those who are bilingual. The county has offered to cover operating costs until the program is accredited and can take insurance reimbursements.
Local nonprofits and the Arlington County government have received $3 million in federal funding to address homelessness.
Nearly $200,000 will go to two new programs from the organizations Doorways and PathForward, formerly A-SPAN. The rest — save for about $81,000 for the county — will support existing programs provided by Bridges to Independence, Doorways, New Hope Housing and PathForward.
“This HUD funding helps ensure survivors of intimate partner violence have access to housing and additional pathways out of shelter, so that they can find healing, harbor, and hope for a brighter future,” Doorways President and CEO Diana Ortiz told ARLnow in a statement.
To date this year, Arlington has received $4.2 million from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to combat homelessness.
“HUD funding is a vital part of Arlington’s efforts to prevent and end homelessness,” said Arlington County’s Department of Human Services Director Anita Friedman in a statement.
“This announcement confirms that our strategic planning, policy development, and service delivery are effective and that we are changing lives for individuals and families who are experiencing homelessness or are at risk of becoming homeless,” she continued.
The county delivers these services in a partnership with local nonprofits called the Arlington County Continuum of Care (CoC). For more than a decade, the CoC has worked to improve the county’s response to homelessness by focusing on providing permanent housing, working with 1,070 people in 2022, per the county.
Nonprofits receiving this money will use it in one of two ways. The first, called “rapid rehousing,” places people living on the street or in an emergency shelter in existing, empty affordable apartment units. The second, called “permanent supportive housing,” combines housing with services such as health care and employment help.
The funding breaks down as follows:
- Doorways: $127,398 for a new rapid rehousing program
- PathForward: $1.85 million for four existing programs and $68,116 for a new permanent supportive housing program
- New Hope Housing: $586,269 for three existing programs
- Bridges to Independence: $289,419 for an existing rapid rehousing program
“HUD grant funding supports a broad array of interventions designed to assist individuals and families experiencing homelessness, particularly those living in places not meant for habitation, located in sheltering programs, or at imminent risk of becoming homeless,” per a county press release. “Because grants are competitive, localities must demonstrate need as well as an ability to address those needs.”
Arlington has demonstrated that ability in the past, when, in 2015, it functionally ended homelessness for veterans, according to a presentation on the county’s efforts.
That does not mean Arlington literally eradicated homelessness for former service members, however.
Rather, it means that the number of actively homeless veterans is less than or equal to the average monthly rate at which individuals and families find and move into stable housing, per the presentation. This is known as “functional zero.”
Arlington aims to reach functional zero for all populations experiencing homelessness by 2026, which would mean seven or fewer single adults and three or fewer youth and families with children actively experiencing homelessness at one time.
To reach this goal, Arlington is partnering with Community Solutions, which is a nonprofit dedicated to ending homelessness, and updating its strategic plan. As part of that process, the county held listening sessions earlier this year to discuss how homelessness affects specific population groups and hear solutions from the community.
In the presentation, Community Solutions representative Elise Topazian said Arlington is on the right track. Over the last 12 years, the Continuum of Care reduced overall homelessness by 66%, including a 52% reduction in sheltered and 90% reduction in unsheltered homelessness.
“Arlington is on the brink [of] ending chronic homelessness,” Topazian said.
Drug use intervention programs for youth are in short supply in Arlington County, according to people who help youth with substance dependencies.
The need is particularly acute for younger teens, as the onset of exposure to and abuse of drugs is trending younger, National Capital Treatment and Recovery Clinical Director Pattie Schneeman said in a recent panel.
“‘There’s nothing out there for adolescents.’ I hear it all the time,” says Schneeman, acknowledging that National Capital Treatment and Recovery, formerly Phoenix House, stopped serving children in 2015 because insurance reimbursements did not cover operating costs.
“If you have money, you can send someone to a posh program. You can pay for services,” she continued. “But if you are average, middle-class or a low socioeconomic family, you have no resources, and it is very sad and devastating to our communities.”
Arlington is seeing a rise in youth obtaining and using opioids, with an increasing number overdosing both on and off school grounds — or effectively detoxing in the Northern Virginia Juvenile Detention Center in Alexandria. In some cases, they are prescription, but in many others, they are buying illegally manufactured pills laced with the deadly drug fentanyl, from local gangs or through social media, police say.
The death of 14-year-old student Sergio Flores after a fatal overdose at Wakefield High School has driven teachers, parents and School Board members to call for more action and support from APS and Arlington County. Conversations since then have revealed the barriers throughout the continuum of care to actually treating kids.
For instance, school-based substance abuse counselors can only educate — they cannot provide treatment, according to School Climate Coordinator Chip Bonar, while appropriate treatment options can have a months-long waitlist. The division of the Arlington County Dept. of Human Services that works with children and behavioral health has 43% of its job positions unfilled and acknowledges there are few residential substance use treatment options.
It will be at least two years before VHC Health — formerly Virginia Hospital Center — opens its planned rehab facility. Two years is a long time, however, considering that less than a month passed between the death of Flores and a near-fatal teen overdose Wednesday.
To beef up treatment options, and expand services in the nearer term, Arlington is turning to settlements with manufacturers, distributors and pharmacies it alleges have been key players in the opioid epidemic. Just last week, the Arlington County Board agreed to participate in a proposed settlement against Teva, Allergan, Walmart, Walgreens, CVS and their related corporate entities.
The Board voted to approve the settlement in an unannounced vote at the end of a lengthy meeting.
“This is the latest in a series of settlements that are part of the larger National Opioid Settlement,” said county spokesman Ryan Hudson. “The total funding awarded to the County from these agreements continues to evolve as more settlements are finalized. All opioid settlement funding will be used on approved opioid abatement purposes.”
Arlington County has received a $1.2 million federal grant to move people experiencing homelessness into permanent or temporary apartment housing.
Approximately 55% of the grant will be for housing — mostly one- and two-bedroom affordable rental units — and the remainder “is for supportive services and staffing,” says Dept. of Human Services spokesman Kurt Larrick.
This project provides permanent housing in existing, but unoccupied, committed affordable units in Arlington to people either living outside or in one of the county’s four emergency shelters, operated by Bridges to Independence, Doorways, New Hope and PathForward.
In federal government speak, this is known as “rapid rehousing,” says Larrick.
It is part of Arlington County’s “housing first” approach — one in which people are housed without stipulations, says Adele McClure, a candidate for the second district of the House of Delegates, who has worked for many years in Arlington tackling homelessness after experiencing it herself in Fairfax County.
“It’s breaking down the barrier to housing,” she said. “I am a product of those stipulations growing up. When I was in transitional housing, we didn’t have ‘housing first’ model, it was really, really tough for our family. I am thankful Arlington and all of Virginia engages in that.”
The funds will also pay for master-lease agreements with nonprofits to move people into apartments temporarily before moving to permanent housing, Larrick said.
This grant has a three-year term. It is a new funding source and a new U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) project type for Arlington.
“But the work is not new to Arlington and will be a mix of non-congregate shelter and Rapid Rehousing services for people experiencing homelessness,” Larrick said. “Arlington has a long history of winning competitive HUD funding opportunities across a range of programming areas though.”
McClure says Arlington is well-positioned to address homelessness because of its “continuum of care” model that brings together nonprofits, affordable housing providers and public and private service providers to oversee everything from subsidy programs to street outreach.
The funding will help replace early Covid relief federal funding through the CARES Act, which is coming to an end, she noted.
The grant comes as the county is working on its next strategic plan to help households at risk of homelessness keep their housing and help homeless families quickly regain stable housing.
Arlington County adopted a 10-year plan in 2006. Data over the last decade show that during the out-years of the plan, the population of people living in shelters and outdoors dropped sharply. That rate of decline has since slowed and possibly plateaued.
“We started off really strong and we had that sharp decline, but once you get down to the lower numbers we have, we’re going to get down to the folks who are hardest to serve: those are the folks who don’t necessarily stay sheltered,” McClure said. “I know, here in Arlington, we are concerned about losing that momentum and progress.”
A three-year plan was adopted in 2018. The plan was extended due to Covid, but now, the county is reprising its planning. This round is focused on addressing inequities for people of color, immigrants and seniors.
“Arlington struggles with the availability of resources, funding and stock of affordable housing,” McClure said. “There are large and systemic root causes that perpetuate homelessness… Arlington is trying to address those systemic root causes.”
Interested community members can attend any of the following informational sessions.
- Understanding the Role of Racial Equity in Arlington’s Continuum of Care — Friday, Feb. 17 from 12:30-2:30 p.m. at the Arlingotn Central Library Auditorium (1015 N. Quincy Street)
- Domestic Violence & Homelessness — Saturday, Feb. 18 from 10 a.m. to noon at the DHS Lower Level Auditorium, Sequoia Plaza 1 (2100 Washington Blvd)
- Family Homelessness — Wednesday, Feb. 22 from 5-7 p.m. at the Central Library Auditorium
- Single Adults Experiencing Homelessness — Thursday, Feb. 23 from 12:30-2:30 p.m. at the Central Library Auditorium
- Youth and Young Adult Homelessness — Monday, March 6 from 5-7 p.m. at the DHS Lower Level Auditorium
- Virtual Open Listening Session — Friday, March 10 from noon-2 p.m.
The following was funded, in part, by the ARLnow Press Club. Become a member today and support in-depth local reporting.
In Arlington and across the state, hospital emergency rooms are filling up with people in mental health crises, often handcuffed to gurneys and attended by law enforcement officers.
People in these situations can’t walk around, save to go to the bathroom, and they can’t see their families. They may be calm or exhibiting aggressive behaviors; they might be hearing voices or may not have eaten in days because they believe their food is poisoned.
Whatever the case, they are in the emergency room because local clinicians determined they are a danger to themselves or others or unable to care for themselves, and need to be treated by specialized staff in a hospital.
Magistrates placed them under the civil custody of law enforcement officers, who have to stay with them until ER nurses can conduct a basic physical exam and clear them to go to that hospital’s behavioral health ward, where they will receive additional treatment.
That is how it should work.
But a statewide shortage of adult psychiatric beds means people in crisis — and under either an eight-hour emergency custody orders (ECOs) or 72-hour temporary detention orders (TDOs) — could wait hours under the eye of law enforcement for medical clearance while local social workers call every hospital in the state searching for beds. Once beds are located, police will drive their charges there — sometimes up to five hours away.
The shortage is straining Virginia’s mental health care system, which is held up by dwindling ranks of under-resourced clinicians, nurses and law enforcement working overtime.
“You do wonder, how much is this helping this person as opposed to hurting someone?” said police officer James Herring, who is running for Arlington County Sheriff. “This ‘help’ feels very, ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.’ That’s not what any of us wants, but it’s the way the system has evolved.”
The current crisis is a result of the state’s decision in 2021 to close most state psychiatric hospitals, which were understaffed due to low wages, hazardous working conditions and Covid. This took some 260 psychiatric beds offline, resulting in people across the state being diverted to remaining state facilities, including Northern Virginia Mental Health Institute, where many Arlington patients go.
The bed shortage has prompted Arlington County law enforcement agencies, the Dept. of Human Services and Community Services Board and VHC Health — the new name of Virginia Hospital Center — to work together to move away from a system that they say causes trauma and pulls officers away from important duties and toward a community-based continuum of care.
Just yesterday (Tuesday), VHC announced it will be building a facility dedicated to behavioral health at its former urgent care facility at 601 S. Carlin Springs Road.
“The crisis with the state hospital beds has forced us, locally and regionally, to bust our butt to come up with [ways to] help people who are in crisis,” says Deborah Warren, the executive director of the Arlington Community Services Board and the DHS Deputy Director.
Other events threw these systemic issues into relief, too, Warren says. The Richmond police shooting of Marcus-David Peters, who was having a psychotic episode, demonstrated the risk of police responding to a behavioral health problem while pandemic-era isolation has made mental illnesses more acute.
“It’s true for every population and age band,” Warren said. “People aren’t doing well, post-pandemic… Anybody can go into a behavioral health crisis… It’s neurotypical people who are overwhelmed and overrun with feelings of anxiety and depression… People are more self-destructive. It’s gut-wrenching.”
Last year, the Virginia legislature directed the state Dept. of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services to discuss alternatives to police transportation, with stakeholders that included Arlington police, says ACPD spokeswoman Ashley Savage. The workgroup came up with the idea for the Prompt Placement Task Force, which brings together government agencies, public and private hospitals, law enforcement and community partners to address the crisis.
Gov. Glenn Youngkin announced the creation of this task force, of which Warren is a member, in December 2022. The goal is to come up with solutions that could be enacted this legislative session.
But the problem won’t get better until every locality has more services upstream, said state Sen. Barbara Favola, who noted Arlington has “more community-based care than most parts of the state.”
“Virginia has more people in psych beds than need to be there because we don’t have a community-based network to release them into care,” she said.
Historically, Virginia mostly funded state facilities and wealthy jurisdictions in Northern Virginia, like Arlington County, applied local tax dollars to their community services boards, explains Warren. But as evidenced by the current crisis, even Arlington has room to improve.
“We have a long way to go, and the state has a long way to go,” she said.
VHC Health could break ground on a new mental health and rehabilitation facility at its old urgent care facility on S. Carlin Springs Road as soon as this year.
Arlington County and VHC Health — the new name of Virginia Hospital Center — announced a joint agreement this afternoon to expand behavioral health and rehab services through the proposed project at 601 S. Carlin Springs Road.
The new facility would have 72 beds dedicated to mental health and substance use recovery. This consists of a 24-bed adult unit, a 24-bed youth unit, a 24-bed “recovery and wellness unit” and five outpatient programs, according to a county announcement.
It will have 40 beds set aside for people with brain and spinal cord injuries, those recovering from strokes and those with neurological and other conditions. Currently, the main VHC campus has 20 beds for patients with these needs.
“We are grateful for our continued partnership with VHC Health in developing facilities to meet the healthcare needs of the Arlington community,” County Board Chair Christian Dorsey said in a statement. “With the growing demand, mental health services continue to be a priority. We remain committed to expanding capacity and offering services and support for individuals experiencing behavioral health challenges and their families.”
The chair of the VHC Health Board of Directors, Dr. Russell E. McWey, said this expansion of mental health services “has been a long-time priority for the Board and for VHC Health.”
“The Board is pleased to continue serving our community and to champion this facility and advocate for those who are in need in and around Arlington County,” he said in his statement.
The new S. Carlin Springs Road facility will house five programs: intensive outpatient programs for adults and children, a recovery and wellness intensive outpatient program, an adult partial hospitalization program and an outpatient behavioral health clinic.
VHC had originally intended to add a behavioral health unit to its main campus expansion, Deborah Warren, the executive director of the Arlington Community Services Board and the DHS Deputy Director, told ARLnow. Now, per the announcement, the hospital will instead build a 14-bed geriatric behavioral health unit.
The expansion comes as Arlington, Northern Virginia and Commonwealth as a whole are seeing two trends: deepening mental health needs and greater competition for limited healthcare resources.
Advocates have called the current state of mental health care in Virginia a crisis, one prompted by the state’s decision in 2021 to close most state psychiatric hospitals, which were understaffed due to low wages, hazardous working conditions and Covid.
The closures created a bottleneck at remaining facilities and forced private hospitals, including Virginia Hospital Center, to take in more patients. Sometimes, patients are brought to the hospital by law enforcement, and until they are able to be treated, are left to wait in the emergency room — handcuffed to a gurney under the watch of a law enforcement officer. This situation has contributed to burnout for county social workers and police officers.
In response, Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin announced late last year the formation of a task force to come up with ways to remove law enforcement from this process and ensure people get the help they need. VHC Health CEO and President Chris Lane lauded this move in today’s statement.
“VHC Health applauds the Governor and the General Assembly for their commitment to addressing Virginia’s behavioral health crisis and this joint venture will contribute to the Commonwealth’s objective of treating behavioral wellness,” Lane said. Read More
Update at 3:05 p.m. — Numerous small, scattered outages have been reported around Arlington. The number of Dominion customers in the dark is now down to just over 800, with the larger earlier outage since largely resolved.
Earlier: Today’s frigid wind storm is just getting underway — complete with a recent bout of snow flurries — but many are already without power in Arlington.
As of 10 a.m., more than 1,500 Dominion customers are in the cold, according to the power company’s website.
The following outages were reported on Dominion’s map.
- 718 customers, in Penrose and Lyon Park
- 715 customers, between Ballston and Westover
- 114 customers, in Glebewood
- At least two smaller outages in Bellevue Forest and Ashton Heights
The Penrose outage has closed Arlington’s Dept. of Human Services offices at Sequoia Plaza, the county announced this morning.
DHS is closed today. Due to a power outage at Sequoia Plaza, Dept. of Human Services offices are closed today. Client appts will be rescheduled. Sorry for the inconvenience. @ArlingtonVA
— Arlington County Department of Human Services (@ArlingtonDHS) December 23, 2022
“Dominion Energy continues to closely monitor the extremely cold, windy weather and its potential to impact our Virginia and North Carolina service territory,” the company said in a statement today. “Our crews are positioned and ready to respond to any damage or power outages that may be caused as a result of the ice storm.”
“If you experience a power outage, please make sure you report it to Dominion Energy immediately,” the company added. “Please stay at least 30 feet away from all downed wires and damaged equipment. If you need to report an emergency or a downed wire, please call us at 1-866-DOM-HELP (1-866-366-4357)… We appreciate your patience.”
The county is under both a Wind Advisory and a Wind Chill Advisory today. More outages are possible throughout the day, with 50 mph wind gusts expected.